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A level-headed news-discussion site with a sense of history and community https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/47293/steel_curtain_fave.png 2018-12-10T15:15:03-05:00
Updated: 7 min 13 sec ago

Steelers Week 14 injury report: James Conner and Marcus Gilbert out, Morgan Burnett and Anthony Chickillo questionable

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 3:02pm

Pittsburgh will be short at least two players on offense this Sunday and could more missing two more on defense when they face the Oakland Raiders.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without at least two offensive starters on Sunday and might yet be missing two key defensive players after both Marcus Gilbert and James Conner were officially ruled out for Week 14 and Anthony Chickillo and Morgan Burnett were listed as questionable.

OUT: James Conner and Marcus Gilbert
QUESTIONABLE: Morgan Burnett and Anthony Chickillo

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) December 7, 2018

Neither Conner or Gilbert were able to practice at all this past week and a return in time to face the New England Patriots in Week 15 is far from guaranteed. A combination of Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley will replace Conner, while Matt Feiler will once again start in place of Gilbert.

Given Burnett was a full participant in training every day this week, it is something of a surprise to see him listed as questionable to face the Oakland Raiders. Although Chickillo sat out training on Wednesday and Thursday, he was not limited in practice on Friday. If he cannot play, Ola Adeniyi should see an increase in snaps from last week in only his second ever game.

Despite picking up a variety of injuries in the loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Ryan Switzer (concussion), Roosevelt Nix (shoulder) and Kam Canaday (knee) were able to take a full part in training each day and all are expected to suit up on Sunday.

Expert Picks: Who NFL experts predict will win the Steelers vs. Raiders game in Week 14

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 11:48am

Time to check in on the NFL Experts to see who they like in Week 14 when the Steelers travel to Oakland to play the Raiders.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 7-4-1 entering their Week 14 game with the 2-10 Oakland Raiders, and on paper this is exactly what the Steelers need to end their two game winning streak and get their final quarter of the season off to the right start before facing the likes of the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints in consecutive weeks.

If only they played the game on paper...

The Steelers cross-country trek to Oakland hasn’t been a pretty one for the black-and-gold. The last time Pittsburgh went to Oakland and won was in 1995, and Neil O’Donnell was the quarterback. To put that into perspective, Ben Roethlisberger was 13 when that took place. Oakland hasn’t been pretty for the Steelers, but they hope to buck the trend in what is likely their last trip to Oakland since the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas in the very near future.

This seems like slam dunk pick, but the vast majority of NFL experts thought the Steelers would win the past two weeks against the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers, and we all know how that panned out. Nonetheless, it is that time of the week when I take a look at the NFL experts around the internet, and who they like this Steelers vs. Raiders Week 14 matchup.

Wouldn’t you know that as I was scrolling through my Rolodex of websites, I couldn’t find one who had an expert who picked the Raiders to win at home. This includes ESPN, CBS Sports and even the hardcore haters here at SB Nation.

However, thanks to our friend at NFL Pick Watch, there were a few lost souls who picked Oakland to hold serve at home and keep the curse of the Black Hole alive and well. According to NFL Pick Watch, a website which compiles all NFL expert picks and compiles them into one easy-to-read graph, 99% of experts are taking the Steelers this Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.

Will the Steelers finally prove the experts right? Or will this be another case of Pittsburgh going into the western time zone and fumbling away any chance of victory? Only time will tell...

Ryan Shazier gives glimpse into real-life progress, and he continues to amaze

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 10:38am

The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker continues to impress every single day.

It has been just over a year since Ryan Shazier was laying motionless on the Paul Brown Stadium turf on Monday Night Football, and in the moments after the spinal stabilization surgery, one word has constantly circulated around Shazier — privacy.

No one faulted Shazier, and his family, for keeping things private. After all, despite the concern for one of the fan favorites on the current team, no one in his situation would want all eyes on them as they work to regain the feeling in his lower extremities.

Little by little, Shazier would pull back the curtain of his rehabilitation:

...and then he posted this video on his verified Instagram page:

This is awesome, @RyanShazier pic.twitter.com/ca1EgOLRE0

— ESPN (@espn) December 6, 2018

The weight isn’t important, but the act is what is mind-boggling. Shazier has been a ray of light to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, and his never-say-die attitude has been a driving force for him defying the odds in his uphill journey.

Doctors gave Shazier a 20% chance of walking again after his stabilization surgery, and it took him less than a year to defy those odds. While the conversation continues to veer towards whether Shazier will suit up and play football again if he is able, but the talk shouldn’t focus around his ongoing improvement. At this point, no one knows what the future holds, but Shazier has done nothing but amaze as he proves a lot of people wrong.

Always SHALIEVE!!

Rooting Guide: Who Steelers fans should root for in other Week 14 games

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 9:10am

BTSC’s guide to the other weekend games that might impact the Steelers the most in Week 14.

We are all aware of the significance of winning vs. losing when the Steelers take the field on the road against the sad sack (but still dangerous) Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Of course, the Steelers need to win to snap their two-game skid, remain atop the division and ward off surging Baltimore. With less games remaining, the playoff contenders and pretenders are becoming much more defined and a majority of the AFC teams games are of importance. Most of the time, Steelers fans know who to root for. But here’s a guide to significant matchups, and whose losses the Steelers would benefit more from this weekend.

If the season ended today, the Steelers would be the second seed in the AFC, but there are plenty of teams to root for in other action. Here are the current AFC playoff standings.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs 10-2 (Would win AFC West and would earn them a First Round Bye)
  2. New England Patriots 9-3 Would win AFC East and host Wild Card Baltimore)
  3. Houston Texans 9-3 (Would win AFC South and host Wild Card Los Angeles Chargers)
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers 7-4-1 (Would win AFC North and would earn them a First Round Bye)
  5. Los Angeles Chargers 9-3 (Would earn Wild Card and travel to Houston)
  6. Baltimore Ravens 7-5 (Would earn Wild Card and travel to New England)
  7. Miami Dolphins 6-6
  8. Indianapolis Colts 6-6
  9. Denver Broncos 6-6
  10. Tennessee Titans 6-6
  11. Cincinnati Bengals 5-7
  12. Cleveland Browns 4-7-1
  13. Buffalo Bills 4-8
  14. Jacksonville Jaguars 4-8
  15. New York Jets 3-9
  16. X-Oakland Raiders 2-8

(X) eliminated

...

Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday 1:00 PM

The Lamar Jackson era has been successful-enough to get the Ravens within a half a game of the AFC North lead. For the first time all season, Steeler Nation needs to root for the Chiefs.

Who to root for: Kansas City Chiefs

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins - Sunday 1:00 PM

Who to root for: Miami Dolphins

Getting a bye might prove difficult, but a Patriots loss keeps that dream afloat. Plus who really roots for the Pats?

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans - Sunday 1:00 PM

Despite last week’s shut-out loss, Indy is still rising. They could be dangerous in the playoffs. But the hot team from Houston needs to have their roll slowed.

Who to root for: Indianapolis Colts

Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Chargers - Sunday 4:05 PM

Always tough to cheer on this hot-mess, but the reeling Bengals upsetting the Chargers would be pleasing.

Who to root for: Cincinnati Bengals

Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers - Sunday 4:05 PM

Denver is dangerous and on the climb. A loss by them isn’t crucial to the Steelers, but I’d take it.

Who to root for: San Francisco 49ers

Other AFC Games in Week 14:

Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns - Sunday 1:00 PM

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills - Sunday 1:00 PM

Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans - Thursday 8:20 PM

Steelers Injury Report: Marcus Gilbert and Anthony Chickillo miss a second day of practice on Thursday

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 7:44am

Marcus Gilbert look likely to miss his seventh consecutive game of the season on Sunday as he continues to struggle with a knee injury.

With the exception of a change to the names receiving a veteran rest day, the Pittsburgh Steelers injury report on Thursday looked exactly the same as it did on Wednesday.

#Steelers Thursday injury report vs #Raiders:
MISSED: Conner (ankle), Chickillo (ankle), Foster (maintenance), Gilbert (knee).

Everyone else went full. @937theFan

— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) December 6, 2018

While Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey and Antonio Brown returned from their day off, it was the turn of Ramon Foster to take his on Thursday and status quo for the rest of the names on the injury report. Anthony Chickillo (ankle), Marcus Gilbert (knee) and James Conner (ankle) remain sidelined by injuries and Gilbert is expected to miss his eighth game of the season in Week 14. Conner has already been ruled out.

Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley will most likely split the carries at running back in place of Conner, while Matt Feiler will start in place of Gilbert. If Chickillo is not able to go, it should be expected that newly activated Ola Adeniyi would see a significant increase in snaps from his debut last Sunday.

Ryan Switzer (concussion), Morgan Burnett (back), Roosevelt Nix (shoulder) and Kam Canaday (knee) were all full participants at practice for a second day in a row, despite a variety of injury concerns, and all should be expected to play against the Oakland Raiders if they can complete the week’s training on Friday.

The Raiders saw little improvement in their injury report from Wednesday as one new name appeared while another return to practice as a full participant.

#Raiders Thursday Injury Report: WR Seth Roberts was limited with a concussion after not being on the injury report yesterday. pic.twitter.com/C7Et6AyaC7

— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) December 6, 2018

Week 14 betting preview: Steelers now 10.5-point favorites vs. Raiders

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 6:41am

We take a look at the latest odds for the Steelers’ clash with the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

Despite the expected absence of James Conner in Week 14 when the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Oakland Raiders, the bookmakers remain confident the game will be an easy win for the Steelers.

From an opening spread of 11.5-points, a consensus line of 10.5-points is still available as of Friday morning. However, while Oakland may only have won twice in 2018, Pittsburgh has consistently struggled in road games against them and have not won there since 1995. The Steelers lost in Oakland in both 2012 and 2013, years in which the Raiders went 4-12 both times and Mike Tomlin is 2-3 against them since taking control of the team.

An early totals position of 49.5-points was quickly replaced by a line of 51.5-points by Monday and there has been no change to that position at the time of writing. Even without Conner in the lineup, the over is still good value, with the Raiders giving up an average of 30.6-points a game this season.

Originally priced at -588 outright to win the contest, -565 is the best price currently showing, although most sportsbooks have the moneyline set at -700.

According to Oddsshark.com, Pittsburgh is 5-2-1 against the spread in their last eight games and 6-5-1 ATS overall on the season. The total has gone under in four of the Steelers last five games on the road and the over is 7-5 so far in 2018. Pittsburgh is 2-4 ATS in their last six games versus the Raiders in Oakland and the total has gone under in five of the Steelers last seven games on the road against them.

Without Conner, Pittsburgh are missing one of the two players who have scored the first touchdown for them in all but three games this season and we will be looking for team’s other prolific opening scorer to step up in his absence on Sunday. Antonio Brown has scored the first touchdown three times times so far this year and he can be backed at prices of around 4/1 for the game’s first touchdown and around 5/2 for first team touchdown this week.

Podcast: Time to put up, or shut up, for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 5:31am

In the latest episode of “The Steelers Preview” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-gold from the week that was.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers resume their December schedule heading into their Week 14 game vs. the Oakland Riaders, there’s a surge of Steelers news — so it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading up to this week’s game!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Injuries
  • Key Matchups
  • Fantasy Players
  • Week 14 AFC North predictions
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Bryan Anthony Davis walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Black and Gold Links: Don’t close the book on James Conner’s 2018 season just yet

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 4:45am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen better days than they are currently experiencing. The black-and-gold have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since 2016, after losing to the Broncos and Chargers in consecutive weeks. Now they turn their attention to another AFC West opponent, the Oakland Raiders, in Week 14.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how despite the frustrations many are feeling currently with the injury to running back James Conner, they should remember his season isn’t over. In other words, you shouldn’t close the door on Conner’s 2018 storybook season, there is plenty left to be written.

Let’s get to the news:

James Conner still has time to finish storybook season

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

Pittsburgh Steelers players knew little about James Conner’s sprained ankle other than he was rehabbing vigorously somewhere inside the team facility Wednesday. Conner wasn’t visible during practice or the open locker room, offering up nothing more than prayer and half-smile emojis on twitter.

The one certainty is Conner will not play Sunday at Oakland, where Pittsburgh has lost three straight.

But Conner’s teammates want to see the running back finish the job as early as Week 15 in a hotly anticipated clash with the New England Patriots. They’ve appreciated the way Conner navigated the spotlight in Le’Veon Bell’s absence on the way to 909 rushing yards (fifth in the NFL) and 12 rushing touchdowns (tied for second).

As of midweek, Conner was fifth in overall Pro Bowl voting.

”Who wouldn’t love this story? Who wouldn’t want him to succeed?” guard Ramon Foster said.

Foster was glad the offense could focus on Conner once it became clear Bell would not report by the Week 11 deadline. Since then, though, Conner, the AFC Offensive Player of the Month in October, has dealt with his share of adversity on the field. He dropped two key late-game passes in Jacksonville, followed by a fumble in a loss to Denver that left him visibly frustrated in the postgame locker room.

The miscues haven’t affected the Steelers’ faith in Conner, who teammate Ben Roethlisberger says hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down after 253 touches.

”He stayed quiet, he let his play speak for itself,” Foster said. “More than anything, it just showed his confidence is everything he felt that he was. He showed what kind of player he was. It was like, ‘Oh, you don’t believe me? I’m going to do it again.’ You saw it in his face, in his actions.”

At least for this week, Conner’s running back mates plan to hold him down. Rookie Jaylen Samuels and eight-year veteran Stevan Ridley are expected to share carries, with Samuels getting the start.

”Three-0 is down, so everybody has to do their part so we can carry this load,” Ridley said.

The Steelers pass the ball 67.31 percent of the time, tops in the NFL, which means tailbacks must be ready to hit the hole and catch passes.

Conner plays that versatile role well, ripping off nine rushes of 20-plus yards (tied for fourth in the league) along with 52 receptions. He has improved as a pass-blocker. The Steelers will need it for back-to-back matchups with the Patriots and New Orleans Saints in an effort to clinch a home playoff game.

Carter’s Classroom: Third-down success depends almost entirely on Ben

By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports

After going 1-2 in their past three games, the Steelers have multiple areas to address. I focused this week’s War Room on coverage issues with the Chargers’ Keenan Allen, but equally troubling about their 33-30 loss Sunday at Heinz Field was their showing on third down, converting 3 of 10 and continuing a trend in their losses.

A hard look at the Xs and Os reveals some answers as to how they can improve:

The Steelers rank seventh in the NFL in third-down offense, which has contributed to the offense overall ranking fourth in both yards and points per game. But take a look at the night-and-day fluctuation on third downs during their wins and losses to see how big a factor it’s become:

Their 53.4 percent success rate in their wins would rank the highest by far in the NFL, as the Buccaneers have the best percentage with 49.3. But their 32.3 success rate in their four losses and one tie would rank them 29th between the Dolphins and Bills.

What’s telling is that the average distance of third downs in their wins and losses is roughly a single yard. Meaning the difference in success isn’t because they’re creating shorter third down situations, but more because of execution on the third-down plays.

That’s why I looked closer at playcalling on third downs and their results. The average distance to go on third down run plays being less than three yards showed the importance of being able to win through the air. From the 22 run plays the Steelers have called on third down, eleven have come when they only needed one yard to gain.

This means the Steelers need to attack through the air to convert the average range of 6-7 yards to go on third downs. The Steelers have hit a slump the past three weeks when passing on third downs, converting only 22.2 percent against the Jaguars, 30.7 percent against the Broncos and 30 percent against the Chargers.

Much of that comes from Ben Roethlisberger being able to recognize and exploit each defense he faces. We covered how defenses are adjusting to the Steelers last week and how that involved disguised defensive schemes.

(To read more, click the link in the headline...)

Trey Edmunds ready to help Steelers in backfield or on special teams

By: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Staff

Trey Edmunds was activated from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad to add depth at running back in the wake of James Conner’s ankle sprain that will keep him from playing Sunday in Oakland.

Edmunds’ promotion also coincided with the Steelers giving up a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in their most recent game, and that leak on special teams is where the second-year running back could make his biggest impact this weekend.

Edmunds played primarily on special teams last season when he appeared in all 16 games with the New Orleans Saints.

“I was a four core guy,” Edmunds said, referring to punt and kickoff returns and coverage units. “I learned each one of those special teams. I feel I have some good assets in each one of them. I just have to fine tune each one of them.”

Coach Mike Tomlin indicated that the 6-foot-2, 223-pound Edmunds, the older brother of rookie safety Terrell Edmunds, will get his playing time on those units more than in the backfield. Rookie Jaylen Samuels and veteran Stevan Ridley are the first two options to replace Conner.

“I know he earned his stripes in New Orleans in that capacity, so forget what he’s able to provide us a runner,” Tomlin said. “This is a guy who is going to be uniform that has a resume that is centered around some special teams contributions. And he’ll be given an opportunity there, first and foremost, but I haven’t been displeased with what I’ve seen from him as a runner.”

Edmunds, who also has experience as a kick returner, appeared in one game with the Saints as a running back, and he had nine carries for 48 yards that included a 41-yard touchdown run. The Saints used Edmunds some at fullback, but he’s moved back to his natural tailback position while playing on the Steelers scout teams this season.

“I like to think I have a mix of power and speed, and I try to counteract off each other using both of those,” Edmunds said. “I guess it depends on the situation and where the defender is.”

How to watch Steelers vs. Raiders in Week 14: Time, TV Schedule and game information

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 4:08am

We’ve got all the information you need to know to keep up with the action from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ clash with the Oakland Raiders on Sunday,

The Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Oakland for a matchup with the Raiders on Sunday at a venue that have not won in since 1995. But despite their opponent sporting a 2-10 record this season, there can be few fans expecting an easy victory for Pittsburgh. Back-to-back losses have dented the Steelers’ postseason ambitions and they are now playing for a place in the playoffs, rather than fighting for home field advantage.

While there are few things that Oakland has done right this season, they have rushed for more yards than Pittsburgh in 2018. Although that does not say much about a unit ranked 22nd overall, given the Steelers rank 29th. The real struggles for the Raiders have come on defense and they currently rank 28th in the league giving up almost 400-yards a game. A run defense giving up 153.2 yards a game might be their biggest weakness, but without James Conner in the lineup, Pittsburgh is less likely be able to exploit this issue than other teams have.

If not for their last two losses, this contest would have trap game written all over it with the New England Patriots next up on the schedule. But in light of their recent defeats, it would be unthinkable to imagine the Steelers are not focused for this one, even if fan optimism is rather low.

Week 14:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1) @ Oakland Raiders (2-10)

Date: Sunday, December 9.

Kickoff: 4.25 p.m. ET.

Venue: Oakland Coliseum.

Weather: Live weather update.

Watch:

TV Channel: FOX, broadcast locally on WPGH-TV, with Thom Brennaman and Chris Spielman as commentators and Shannon Spake the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Online Streaming: NFL.com Game Pass on delay in the U.S and live for international viewers or live in the U.S via a subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket. FuboTV also allows you to stream the game online. The NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis.

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove and Tunch Ilkin as commentators and Craig Wolfley as the sideline reporter. Broadcast live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area and via their local affiliates. Listen online via Steelers.com and with the Steelers Official Mobile App. Alternatively, you can listen to a radio broadcast on SiriusXM.

You can also follow Behind the Steel Curtain on Twitter to catch all of the highlights as they happen, and be sure to check back with us after the game for our post-match roundup.

Injuries:

Marcus Gilbert will miss his seventh consecutive game on Sunday because of a knee injury and eighth overall this season, while James Conner sits for the first time this year with a sprained ankle.

Upcoming schedule:

‘Blitzburgh’ has returned for the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 2:13pm

When it comes to blitzing the quarterback, the Steelers send extra pass rushers a lot.

As a 35 year old man, I grew up in the transition years for the Pittsburgh Steelers. You know, those years after Terry Bradshaw before the team drafted Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. While those teams saw some serious success, minus a Super Bowl win, what I remember most was the defense.

You know, the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense.

Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown, Levon Kirkland and so many more made up the group which made the moniker a household term during the mid-90s. I loved those defenses, even though they were often exposed in their secondary. Visions of Bill Cowher talking to Greg Lloyd saying, “Just rush!” run through my mind like the VHS tape I had growing up.

Fast forward to 2018, and it seems as if the Pittsburgh Steelers have rejuvenated the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense with their high sack totals and how much they blitz. The Steelers sport the most sacks in the league, as a team, with 41, and a main reason why they are so high on the list is likely due to the percentage of the time they blitz.

Take a look at the data in the image below, courtesy of ESPN’s NFL Matchup Twitter feed:

ALL THINGS BLITZ: PART 1

Here are the teams that blitz the most in the NFL!#KeepPounding #HereWeGo #RavensFlock #BeRedSeeRed #BroncosCountry #Colts #OnePride #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/xpf9QdBZze

— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) December 6, 2018

In 2017, the Steelers set a new franchise record for sacks in a season with 56, and they are currently on pace to finish just under that mark. But the difference between last year’s team and the current team is how frequently the team is sending extra pass rushers.

Blitzing is often considered a risk-reward proposition. Send extra pass rushers and leave your secondary vulnerable. Well, so far this year the Steelers have seen their secondary give up more yardage through the air than any other team, but one. Pittsburgh’s second in yards allowed passing per game (320.7) and is second only to the Buccaneers who gives up 344 yards per game.

So, yes the Steelers are blitzing almost more than anyone else, and they are getting home at an impressive clip, but at what expense? Some prefer to blitz the quarterback, in hopes of getting home and creating turnovers, while others think protecting the secondary is more important. Either way, it looks like the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense is back, for good and bad.

Cameron Heyward nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 12:35pm

The Steelers have selected Cameron Heyward for a very prestigious NFL honor.

Every year all 32 NFL teams nominate one of their own to be their representative for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award. For the 2018-2019 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have made their selection, and it is none other than defensive end Cameron Heyward.

Heyward, who started the “Heyward House” charity, has become a fixture in the city of Pittsburgh helping as many at-risk youth as he possibly can. The Heyward House has done a tremendous job in helping organizations such as: Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation, Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania, DKMS, KidsVoice, Smyrna Stars Baksetball Club and other after school fitness programs.

Not only is Heyward a beast on the field, this just further solidifies the man he is off the field. Heyward will wear a helmet decal with the Walter Payton Man of the Year logo on it for the remainder of the season, and will be honored by the NFL the week of the Super Bowl.

Check out the other nominees from the other NFL teams:

Below is the list of the 2018 nominees:

Arizona Cardinals S Antoine Bethea

Atlanta Falcons DT Grady Jarrett

Baltimore Ravens CB Brandon Carr

Buffalo Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander

Carolina Panthers DE Julius Peppers

Chicago Bears TE Trey Burton

Cincinnati Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap

Cleveland Browns LB Christian Kirksey

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Denver Broncos LB Von Miller

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford

Green Bay Packers NT Kenny Clark

Houston Texans LB Whitney Mercilus

Indianapolis Colts DE Jabaal Sheard

Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles

Kansas City Chiefs P Dustin Colquitt

Los Angeles Chargers DT Corey Liuget

Los Angeles Rams OT Andrew Whitworth

Miami Dolphins WR Kenny Stills

Minnesota Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph

New England Patriots S Devin McCourty

New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram

New York Giants S Michael Thomas

New York Jets OT Kelvin Beachum

Oakland Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch

Philadelphia Eagles DE Chris Long

Pittsburgh Steelers DE Cameron Heyward

San Francisco 49ers K Robbie Gould

Seattle Seahawks LB K.J. Wright

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy

Tennessee Titans DT Jurrell Casey

Washington Redskins TE Vernon Davis

What should the Steelers do with Artie Burns?

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 11:31am

Pittsburgh Steelers CB Artie Burns must feel like he is living a dream, only that dream is a nightmare. Even before his well deserved seat on the bench, anything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. Maybe he just needs to take 'Baby Steps' to turn his fortunes around.

Back in the early 90's there was a movie titled 'What about Bob?' starring Bill Murray as Bob and Richard Dreyfuss as Leo. Bob was an individual who suffered from numerous fears and phobias which made normal everyday functions nearly impossible. Leo was Bob's psychotherapist and the author of a self help book titled 'Baby Steps'. Leo gave Bob a copy of the book in an effort to help Bob overcome his irrational fears, but Bob took the suggestion of the title quite literally. He would waddle around taking little steps, all the while muttering to himself the words "baby steps" over and over again. While I am certain I am not doing the movie justice with my description, the movie is hilarious and I would recommend it to anyone who has yet to see it.

Artie Burns has resembled Bill Murray's character Bob whenever he has had the misfortune of seeing the field lately. He has been paralyzed by his own irrational fears lately to the point he is taking up a roster spot that could be filled by a functioning human being.

It appears Burns would rather hide on the sidelines than jump into the field of battle. This has to be a discouraging development for the Steelers organization, the same franchise that committed a number one pick for his services.

I feel part of Burns’ problems lie in the fact he can't stop living in the past. His past failures are keeping him from moving forward to being the player he once was and the type of player he wants to be. Part of being a successful person, not just athlete, is having a short memory when it comes to your failures, but the ability to quantify your successes. Never get too high or too low. You are never as good as you think you are, or as bad as some will have you believe.

That is especially true for a cornerback, where your successes and failures are out in the open for everyone to see. Accept it, learn from it, and move on. Artie seems incapable of doing that at the moment. A mistake has no value if you don't learn from it.

You know what inevitably happens when you are just trying to keep your head down and not screw up? The ball finds you every time.

Sunday night poor Artie gets thrust into the game for a two point conversation attempt by the Chargers because Joe Haden was almost decapitated by his own teammate, which tragically resulted in a touchdown instead of a interception, which was the last place Artie wanted to be. Sure enough, Rivers knew all too well Burns was in the game, and therefore knew instantly where he was going with the ball.

I imagine Artie looked like that wide eyed player on the onside kick attempt in the Waterboy movie. Please don't throw it in my area, but to no avail. Burns actually managed to get toasted by Antonio Gates, the same Gates who only came back because of all the injuries the Chargers have had at tight end. Gates has had a Hall of Fame career, but at this point he runs more like an linemen than a tight end. Still Artie offered no resistance to speak of. Why play so fearful? The worst that could happen is already happening.

So what happens next for Artie Burns? The Steelers desperately need him to return to some resemblance of the solid, if not spectacular, pro he once was. Everyone in Steelers Nation held our collective breath when Haden took that shot. We all know if Haden goes down, the defense goes right along with him.

That's why many of us were begging the Steelers to pull the trigger and bring in some reinforcements at the trade deadline, but to no avail. So for better or worse, we got what we got. Now what to do with Artie?

Artie Burns, as presently constructed, cannot help this team. He is a body wearing the uniform, and that is about it. Sometimes it just takes one positive play to erase the memory of all the negative ones.

A made free throw so you know the ball can go through the hoop again. Or a broken bat opposite field hit to get you out of a hitless streak. Artie needs a moment, and soon. Time is running out.

Problems creating turnovers is nothing new for the Steelers

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 10:10am

While the Steelers lack of takeaways appears to a point of concern for Mike Tomlin as of late, it has been an issue for Pittsburgh for some time.

While some might sensibly suggest the Pittsburgh Steelers habit of giving the ball away on offense is their most significant issue this season when it comes to turnovers, there can be no dispute that a lack of takeaways continues to be a problem for this team.

As focused on defensive turnovers as Mike Tomlin seems to be as of late, the reality is that Pittsburgh has struggled to create takeaways with any sense of regularity since their last Super Bowl appearance. That 2010 version of the Steelers was second in the league with 35 takeaways, but they have only broken the top 10 once since then. With just 12 takeaways on the season to date, Pittsburgh currently ranks 23rd in the league and is on track for their lowest total since 2013.

Despite being part of a vaunted Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense renowned for their ability to create turnovers, it would be fair to say that takeaways have not exactly been the hallmark of Tomlin’s reign with the Steelers. A lack of turnovers has been a topic of conversation in the media on repeated occasions over the years, yet little appears to have been done to address the situation.

When speaking to reporters earlier in the week, Tomlin again stressed the problem was one the coaching staff was working on, but any hopes of a quick fix appear overly optimistic.

While it is right to assume that pressure on the quarterback should lead to more interceptions, it is worth noting that Pittsburgh managed just 16 picks in 2017, a year in which they set a new team sack record. Once again, no defender intercepted more than three passes last season and this remains a target no player has beaten since Troy Polamalu recorded seven in 2010.

For a defense that once had names like Mel Blount, Rod Woodson and Polamalu patrolling the secondary, there can be little question that the current crop of players lacks an obvious ballhawk among them. Beyond his rookie year when he finished with six interceptions, Joe Haden has never had more than four picks in a single season, a number that is still one higher than the career best of anyone else on the Steelers’ roster.

With the exception of Morgan Burnett, Tyler Matakevich and perhaps Sean Davis, none of the names on defense really showed much indication they were playmakers at college either. A fact that holds true for most of the defensive linemen and linebackers when it comes to producing fumbles.

Unfortunately, it may be too late to fix the Steelers turnover issues in 2018 and Pittsburgh might want to pay more attention to the free agents and draft prospects available in 2019 who have shown signs of this talent the defense lacks. Tomlin may believe it is a skill that can be taught, but it would appear to be a lesson his team is not learning. That being said, some might fairly question if it is the way the message is being delivered or the defense being run that is really the problem.

Steelers Injury Report: Anthony Chickillo, Marcus Gilbert and James Conner all miss practice on Wednesday

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 8:45am

While three players sat out with injuries, Ryan Switzer, Kam Canaday, Roosevelt Nix and Morgan Burnett were all full participant at practice.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers injury report expected to be a long one on Wednesday, it was somewhat encouraging to note that only three players were forced to missed practice due to injury.

Steelers injury report: Ryan Switzer (concussion), Morgan Burnett (back), Roosevelt Nix (shoulder) & Kam Canaday (knee) were full practice participants. Anthony Chickillo (ankle), Marcus Gilbert (knee), James Conner (ankle) DNP. Getting day off were Haden, Antonio Brown, Pouncey

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) December 5, 2018

Having already been ruled out of the game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, it was no surprise to see that James Conner was held out of training with a sprained ankle, and he joined Marcus Gilbert and Anthony Chickillo as the only other players sitting out to start the week. While Gilbert’s continued absence does not bode well for his inclusion in Week 14, there is some optimism that Chickillo may yet be able to play.

The inclusion of Ryan Switzer as a full participant in training is a great sign he is recovering well from the concussion he suffered against the Los Angeles Chargers and he should have a good chance of playing in Oakland, assuming there are no setbacks. A knee injury was expected to limited Kam Canaday in the early portion of the week, just as a shoulder problem was for Roosevelt Nix, but both were able to practice fully on Wednesday.

After missing Week 13 with a back injury, Morgan Burnett’s return to full training might be one of the more positive updates from the injury report and his progress will be one to watch over the coming days.

Although Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey and Antonio Brown took a veteran rest day, Ben Roethlisberger did not, something of a surprise given he appeared to be dealing with a cold when talking to reporters earlier in the day. He may yet take a day off later in the week.

It would appear #Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is suffering from a cold this week as he prepares to face the #Raiders on Sunday ... from https://t.co/49AraNjlA2 https://t.co/VH4387jkCA pic.twitter.com/Cx1dlOISTw

— Simon Chester (@SimonAChester) December 5, 2018

For those fans hoping to get a rare glimpse of Martavis Bryant next Sunday, his addition to injured reserve earlier in the day will guarantee he misses the reunion with his former team. The rest of their injury report may be even longer than Pittsburgh’s.

Here is the #Raiders injury report for Week 14: pic.twitter.com/L1PtMSz5OM

— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) December 5, 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers reunion with Martavis Bryant will have to wait

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 7:46am

Any type of reunion with Martavis Bryant will have to wait after the receiver was put on Injured Reserve Wednesday.

Talk to any fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and just mention the name Martavis Bryant, and you will likely get a wide array of responses from the black-and-gold faithful.

Wasted talent.

Overrated.

Tremendous deep threat.

Whatever the response might be, when the Steelers decided to trade Bryant to the Oakland Raiders during the 2018 NFL Draft for a third round pick the Week 14 showdown between the two teams gained a little more significance to it.

There will be no reunion between the two parties, considering the Raiders placed Bryant on the Injured Reserve list Wednesday afternoon — ending his season.

Meanwhile, the #Raiders had hoped WR Martavis Bryant would return this season… but they just placed him on Injured Reserve with that PCL injury.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 5, 2018

Throughout the 2018 season, Bryant put up the following numbers for the Raiders:

Games Played: 8
Receptions: 19
Targets: 27
Yards: 266
Average: 14.0
Touchdowns: 0
Fumbles/Lost: 1/1

While Bryant’s first season out of Pittsburgh has been anything but smooth, most fans wish the young and talented receiver nothing but the best. However, what Bryant experienced was a season riddled with injury, and news of another potential suspension. In other words, a season to forget.

Nonetheless, his old teammates will be making the cross country trek to Oakland this weekend, and I’m sure they will have plenty to catch up on seeing their old teammate(s) for the first time in a long time.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they approach a potential third straight AFC North crown.

Can Jaylen Samuels be a short-term answer for the Steelers running game?

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 6:43am

The Pittsburgh Steelers will need to get some contributions from some unlikely running backs.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a very precarious situation heading into Week 14. After watching Le’Veon Bell decide to not show up this season, the organization was left with no choice but to roll with James Conner, Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley as the team’s trio of running backs.

I can only imagine the team had to hope and pray for Conner’s health throughout the season, and unfortunately the injury but bit him in the team’s Week 13 loss to the Chargers at Heinz Field.

An ankle sprain has sidelined Conner for at least the Week 14 game vs. the Oakland Raiders, but possibly for more than that. So, what does the team do now? Turn to Jaylen Samuels as their every-down back? Or take a running back by committee (RBBC) approach using both Samuels and Stevan Ridley?

Either way, NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger did a break down of Samuels’ game, and posed the question whether the Steelers can win with Samuels in the backfield.

Take a look:

.@steelers @JaySam1k is next nan up. 5 th round picks have a way of turning into gold. Was a Swiss Army Knife at NCST and now they need him badly in that role. Look forward to watching the rook this weekend @Raiders #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/23pv5n2LVu

— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) December 5, 2018

The reality of the situation is Samuels is a very versatile weapon, but whether he is ready for every down duty in the NFL is certainly up for debate. Samuels still has a lot of room to grow in the pass protection category, and doesn’t possess the explosion most require at the position.

This is why Ridley being RB1, and Samuels being used as the RB2/3rd down back/specialty back makes the most sense. Ridley is used to getting a heavy workload throughout his career, and Samuels will do best with a little less on his plate.

Can the Steelers pull off a RBBC for the next week, or more, without Conner? Or will this create an offense far too one-dimensional and make for easy pickings for the defense? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Podcast: Will the Steelers break the curse of the ‘Black Hole’ Sunday?

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 5:38am

In the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-gold from the week that was.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into Week 14, and they’ve finally surpassed the halfway point of the 2018 regular season. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers, including a fun game of “True or False!”

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Recapping the week that was
  • True or False!
  • Predicting Steelers vs. Raiders
  • Week 14 AFC North game predictions
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

If you haven’t heard, we have a YouTube channel, and the main reason for this is to increase the sound quality on our shows. But if you’re a visual learner you can watch the show below. Be sure to subscribe to our channel!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Black and Gold Links: Running back by committee will be the plan until James Conner’s return

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 4:28am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen better days than they are currently experiencing. The black-and-gold have dropped back-to-back games for the first time since 2016, after losing to the Broncos and Chargers in consecutive weeks. Now they turn their attention to another AFC West opponent, the Oakland Raiders, in Week 14.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at how the Steelers are forced to approach the upcoming Raiders game in Week 14 with a running back by committee approach. Without James Conner they will rely on a combination of Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels to keep defenses honest until Conner returns.

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers to use committee approach at RB without James Conner

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

When Le’Veon Bell skipped the November deadline to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the worst-case scenario was a significant injury to running back James Conner.

Those fears became reality Tuesday when coach Mike Tomlin ruled out Conner from playing Sunday against the Oakland Raiders because of an ankle sprain.

Tomlin’s declaration came two days after Conner was assisted off the field in the fourth quarter of a 33-30 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The early announcement is an indication the severity of Conner’s injury might measure his return in weeks instead of days.

On Sunday, Tomlin labeled the injury as a lower leg contusion, but at his weekly news conference, he said it was “a little bit more significant that we initially thought.”

Tomlin said he “didn’t know” whether Conner suffered a potentially more serious high-ankle sprain.

Either way, the Steelers will enter their final quarter of games without the second-year back who ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (909) and yards from scrimmage (1,376). After Oakland, the Steelers face New England, New Orleans and Cincinnati to close the regular season.

The Steelers (7-4-1) will try to win at Oakland (2-10) for the first time since 1995 with a running back group consisting of veteran Stevan Ridley, rookie fifth-rounder Jaylen Samuels and second-year runer Trey Edmunds, who was promoted from the practice squad Tuesday.

Tomlin said he will consider using a committee approach to replace Conner.

“That is our intentions as we sit here,” he said. “We have a preparation week ahead of us, and sometimes the division of labor is revealed to you through that work. We have a great deal of confidence in Ridley. We’ve got a great deal of confidence in Jaylen, particularly of late. He’s a guy who has been on the rise in recent weeks.”

A converted tight end/fullback, Samuels scored his second career NFL touchdown after Conner exited with 4 minutes, 45 seconds remaining Sunday. Samuels caught back-to-back passes, the second going for a 10-yard touchdown that tied the score 30-30. For the season, Samuels has 12 carries for 31 yards and seven catches for 54 yards and two scores. He has served as Conner’s backup in recent weeks. Ridley had the job until he fumbled in a midseason win over the Cleveland Browns.

At N.C. State, Samuels never had more than 12 carries in a game in his four seasons. His high for a season was 78 carries when he was a senior.

A sixth-year veteran, Ridley, 29, was signed by the Steelers last year when Conner had season-ending knee surgery with two regular-season games remaining. Since his fumble against Cleveland, Ridley has gotten into just one of the past five games, and he hasn’t played in the past three despite being active on game day.

Six years removed from a 1,263-yard rushing season with New England, Ridley has 18 carries for 56 yards and three catches for 18 yards this season. He hasn’t been a feature running back since 2013.

“We were thoughtful about Ridley’s inclusion in our group,” Tomlin said. “To have a veteran backup like that, a guy who has been in some circumstances, who has been in some playoff football, etc.”

Edmunds, the older brother of first-round pick Terrell Edmunds, was signed to the practice squad after the New Orleans Saints released him in September. In 2017, Edmunds had nine carries for 48 yards and a touchdown with the Saints.

Edmunds has worked with the scout team during practices this season.

Jaylen Samuels ready for Steelers close-up with James Conner out

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

The Steelers couldn’t pick a better time for a rookie running back to be “on the rise.”

Those are the words coach Mike Tomlin used to describe fifth-round pick Jaylen Samuels, whose pass-catching ability should pay off Sunday in Oakland as James Conner misses time because of an ankle sprain.

Maybe that rise coincides with Samuels’ weekly preparation, which leaves him feeling comfortable running with the first-team offense.

”I’ve always got to prepare the same way, because you never know what will happen,” said Samuels, who has 85 yards and two touchdowns on 19 touches, including seven catches for 54 yards. “I had to be 100 percent prepared like I was going to start. Keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks.”

Veteran Stevan Ridley is second among Steelers running backs in rushing with 56 yards in 18 carries, but since Week 10, Samuels has 24 offensive snaps to Ridley’s 10. When Conner left Sunday’s loss to the Chargers, Samuels wasted no time producing with two catches for 14 yards in the red zone, taking a pass over the middle for 10 yards.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on his weekly radio show on 93.7 the Fan that Samuels was his second option over the middle, signaling he has trust in the young player. The two shared a moment after the game-tying score.

Samuels was a versatile hybrid back in college, and the Steelers were intrigued by his receiving ability. Whether he can become a consistent rushing threat is still uncertain, but he looks natural locating the ball in the open field.

”Do what I’ve been doing all my life, getting in open space, catching the ball,” Samuels said. “[Roethlisberger’s] one of the best. He’s smart. When you’re out there with him, you can’t do nothing wrong, really. You should feel confident to play fast. He makes you play fast.”

In 4th try, Ben Roethlisberger seeks 1st win in Oakland

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Venturing into the Black Hole has been nothing but a black cloud for the Pittsburgh Steelers since the Oakland Raiders returned to their home venue 23 years ago.

The Steelers are 0-3 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum since last winning there in 1995, the year the Raiders returned home after ending their stay in Los Angeles.

With the Raiders departing again – this time for Las Vegas – the Steelers’ visit Sunday will represent the final time to end that streak by beating another lowly Raiders team in front of their rabid Black Hole fanbase.

“That’s what makes it fun,” said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has never won in Oakland. “You ask me about the venues and stuff and fans, it’s not an easy place to play.

“What an awesome challenge for us.”

That the Raiders sport a 2-10 record that is tied with San Francisco for the worst in the NFL means nothing in the historical context of the series. In the past three trips to Oakland, the Steelers lost to Raiders teams that finished the season with 4-12, 4-12 and 2-14 records.

Roethlisberger, for one, isn’t overlooking the Raiders’ record, citing the competitive game Oakland played against Kansas City in a 40-33 loss on Sunday.

“You see what they did against one of the best teams in football,” he said. “They fought them all the way to the end.”

With Roethlisberger at quarterback, the Steelers lost in Oakland during the 2006, 2012 and 2013 seasons. In two of those losses, he threw a combined 2 touchdown passes and six interceptions with 10 sacks. In the other game, a 34-31 loss in 2012, he had a 123.2 passer rating and passed for 384 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions with one sack.

Roethlisberger is looking forward to returning for one more chance to face the fans in the Black Hole.

“It’s cool if you respect sports and fans and venues,” he said. “It’s a neat one.”

What’s not so neat is the Steelers’ record when they venture into the Mountain and Pacific time zones. Since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007, the Steelers are 3-8 when visiting those time zones, plus two more losses in Denver in the postseason.

The Steelers are two weeks removed from a 24-17 loss at Mile High Stadium, and a 2015 victory at San Diego represents their only victory in the past six games played in those time zones since 2011.

Tomlin downplayed travel and any potential jet lag as reasons for the team’s recent history when traveling beyond the Central time zone.

“My concern is this group this week in preparation for the group that they employ, that’s my focus,” he said. “I acknowledge the history … but it’s not a major component of logistical preparation and things of that nature for us as we get ready for this game. It’s just not.”

Ben Roethlisberger discusses the issues with traveling to the west coast

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 1:56pm

The Pittsburgh Steelers travel to play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday in Week 14, and the trip to the west coast isn’t an easy one for players.

The Raiders are leaving Oakland, and are headed to Las Vegas in the very near future, and there likely isn’t an NFL team more excited for this change of venue than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The last time the Steelers went to Oakland and won? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was just 13 years old.

You can talk about the ‘Black Hole’ and the rabid Raiders fan base all you want, but one aspect of playing in Oakland is the trip to the west coast. This practice is common place, yet every team handles it differently.

For the Steelers, especially under Mike Tomlin, the team has kept things status quo. Leaving at the normal time for a road trip and preparing the same. However, this year the team is leaving earlier than usual, something noticably different for the veteran quarterback.

During his weekly Wednesday media session, Roethlisberger spoke about the challenge, and what it means to the team making the cross country flight.

“I’ve been doing it for a while, and I hear people talking about it [traveling west]. Whether you are going to elevation in Denver, or going to the west coast. West-East, however you want to say it, but I’ve heard people say it’s under 24 hours it doesn’t affect your body. We’ve always gone at the same time, as long as I’ve been here. This year we are going earlier in the day, so I guess we are trying something different.”

This prompted questions regarding the team’s travels to London to play the Minnesota Vikings during the 2013 season.

“That one I think we went on like a Thrusday, we went very late. You felt it. The other team, I think Minnesota went earlier, and I think whe you are going that far and going through time zones and different days that’s smarter to have more time, but we definitely felt that one. I did.”

Some teams handle the west coast swing differently. Some have left a full day earlier than usual, set up shop on the west coast for the final walk through and allowed the players to get more acclimated to the time change. Others haven’t changed a thing and some have even stayed on the west coast if they have back-to-back week in the western time zone.

Either way, it seems the Steelers are trying something different this year, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, it isn’t as if what they typically do has been working when going to Oakland.

Take a look at the full interview with Roethlisberger below:

Ben Roethlisberger talks about the tough Oakland environment, the running game without James Conner and the final games of the regular season. pic.twitter.com/ZSawHfS2PR

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 5, 2018

Breaking down how Keith Butler cost the Steelers the game

Wed, 12/05/2018 - 12:26pm

The Steelers were a schematic mess on the last drive of the game.

Keith Butler...I am gonna have to talk to you about this, friend. The Steelers had just tied the game with the Chargers off a Jaylen Samuels touchdown, and then, all of the sudden, Keith Butler schemes one of the worst drives I have ever seen. For some reason, he had a prevalence of concepts and personnel that should have never been used on that drive, period.

Let us break down how Keith Butler never set up his guys to succeed on this drive. To start the drive, they only got a two-yard gain, but from there on out, it was a straight disaster for the Steelers.

Fam, Joe Haden, you have played real well, but why do you never press anyone? Literally, all he needs to do here is press to Allen's inside shoulder to force him outside, and he takes this out away. But instead, he virtually gives inside leverage right off the snap. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/OUDV0lE8vz

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 4, 2018

The Steelers come out in what looks to be off-man coverage. By virtue, off-man is designed to stop things in front of guys, so, I have no clue why the defense is playing hands-off here, especially when any of the CBs can be beat by a simple slant. With that in mind, it does take away a big play, but the middle of the field looks to be open, especially with that weird stunt with Bud Dupree and Vince Williams that quite honestly has not worked all year long, but Butler keeps using it.

Regardless, you cannot ask these guys to play off-man, not give them help over the middle, and then expect them to not give up 10-12 yards on an in-breaking route. Haden obviously is selling out for the out breaking route and by virtue of that, he gives up inside leverage, which is an easy completion for Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen.

That was only the start of the drive, but it was equally the most perplexing of them all. Aggressive press-man with blitzes is how your defense has thrived all year, so why not use it? They simply never did that, and part of the passivity of Butler’s blitzing schemes has caused this defense to regress. The past two games, the Steelers have had their lowest percentage of designed blitzes, and I don’t know why.

Sure, T.J. Watt and Javon Hargrave were near a sack just about every play this game, but that really is no excuse to paint this as a good schematic decision. Those stunts have gotten you the pressure you have needed all year, and going away from it is questionable at best.

When your defense is getting toasted, you need to be aggressive and bring +6 man blitzes, and I mean that. That is how you get your splash plays, and honestly, Butler’s defensive passivity is to blame just as much as Ben Roethlisberger’s missed opportunities for this loss.

Take a look at this:

LJ Fort has to get off of Gates there. Ekeler was gonna be wide open on the other side and Edmunds had Gates on the drag right there. Good play design by LAC, but also, Fort has to process that possibility. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/aqiB3ac6sE

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 4, 2018

This really doesn’t look all too bad at first. They just caught the middle of the field when it was weak, and the dump off was wide open. Classic Patriots-like influence that has spread around the league, right? Sure, maybe, but here is why Keith Butler really messed up here. This, at best, should have been a 4 yard gain.

Let’s call this play Cover 3 Williams fire. There really is no stunt here on the blitz, Vince just comes down and blitzes over the LG. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt crash in on the A gaps, so be that hopefully that LG goes after Heyward and gives Williams an opening, and if the LT goes after Vince, Bud Dupree has a one-on-one matchup with Austin Ekeler who is blocking before releasing on a short release route. I get that. That is smart scheming.

So, the coverage is a cover-3 based coverage on a 5-man blitz. Okay, fine, Sean Davis, Joe Haden, and Coty Sensabaugh each take one-third of the field. L.J. Fort, Mike Hilton, and Terrell Edmunds all cover the underneath stuff. Now, what we have to understand about Cover 3 is that it is incredibly passive and easily recognizable. You simply cannot go out there and not disguise anything. Davis or Edmunds need to cheat down to show a blitz, or even better, Hilton should do it. There are a few reasons why this is just scheming, but the lack of disguising is huge. Vince Williams lines up right over the LG and he just blocks him. Why would you not disguise that? It defeats the purpose of the blitz, and I will tell you this, defensive players do not cheat up to the line like that without it being told to them.

Rivers can see the whole thing, and just in case, for some reason, Hilton comes on a delayed blitz (his outward facing hip would indicate against that), he simply gives Gates a key read, and Ekeler is audibled to stay in. Phillip Rivers audibled out of his initial look to this play, and it, in all ways, is a cover-3 beater, and the Steelers have no answer for it. Double comeback routes and a streak are all notorious cover 3 beaters.

As for Gates, he just has to read the coverage and delayed blitz. If it is a delayed blitz, he simply chips Hilton, and breaks off from there. Now, as he reads the middle of the field, his key read is Fort. If Fort drops into a zone in the middle, he runs that drag, if he drops further back to the boundary, the short fade is money, because Edmunds isn’t getting there. Sure, Fort could have gotten off Edmunds sooner, but this was a schematic mess that left Ekeler has a completely open option.

Butler offers no flexibility or disguising on this. The blitz is explicit and so is the coverage, something you never want. The most egregious part of this might not even be that, however, as theoretically, Butler can give keys for Williams to flip this play (towards the strong side). Theoretically, that is exactly what he should have done. Fort and Williams should have switched and Williams should have crashed down over the RG, with Hilton have the opportunity to fake a blitz, thus causing Gates to get out of his route later than anticipated, while Hilton can still go out and cover the streak in the slot. That, my friends, is good scheming. Keith Butler did none of those things.

Biggest play of the game, LJ Fort and Marcus Allen have been great. WHO CARES LETS TAKE THEM OFF THE FIELD FOR JON BOSTIC AND VINCE WILLIAMS. Keith Butler is schematic disaster. He should be fired after this season, I don't care what improvement you've seen. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/iGmrBAafJe

— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 3, 2018

I wish I didn’t have to talk about this, but could they not have used Marcus Allen instead of Jon Bostic? I mean, seriously, I would much rather have had Allen on Allen than Bostic there, and I gotta say, the rookie played darn well in his first action ever. Schematically, this is just a disaster by Butler. Why is Bostic lined up on the inside of Allen? You are just giving up outside leverage, and sure, Bostic isn’t very agile, but if that is your issue, just use Marcus Allen.

Personnel wise, this makes no sense for Butler to use Bostic, and honestly, I can’t even blame Bostic. He was not set up for success here, at all.

So, if you are not looking at the refs, Big Ben, or anyone else, the chief loser of this game is Keith Butler. His lack of schematic competence lost the Steelers this one, straight up. It would be nice to see the Steelers know how to scheme properly, and if they did, this defense would not be nearly as suspect as it is now, but alas, Keith Butler is at the helm.

All I can say is, please take over all personnel and play calling decisions, Mike Tomlin. Thanks.

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